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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘behavior’

A King’s Ransom To Keep Him Happy

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

11-year old Avi was just awarded a trip to visit his cousins in Detroit – because he didn’t get into trouble in school or fight with his siblings for one week. The prize his parents originally had in mind was a new speed bike, but when that failed to motivate him sufficiently, they searched for a more appealing incentive.

In the process, they passed over gameboys, roller blades, a palm pilot, a computer and a camcorder. That’s because Avi had already won those.

He acquired each one of those through a combination of cajoling, arguing and bargaining. After each surrender, his father looked at his mother and said in bewilderment, “When I was a boy, I felt lucky to have a shirt on my back and shoes without holes. What are we running here, a home or a department store?”

And his mother would respond, “Today’s world is different. Would you rather he run around with that wild bunch of kids and get into all kinds of trouble?”

Avi’s energy level had always overwhelmed his parents. From the time he was five or six he needed a high level of stimulation in order to keep his behavior within bounds, already beyond the norm. Although his parents tried to keep one step ahead of him by supplying him with toys, entertainment and outlets for recreation, it began to seem as if nothing would ever satisfy him.

His teachers reported that Avi was often at the center of quarrels between students. “He seems to enjoy provoking altercation, just for the excitement of it,” wrote his fourth grade English teacher in an end-of-the-year assessment.

His scholastic performance was uneven. When the subject matter was dramatic enough to hold his attention, Avi could do above average work. More often than not, however, Avi lapsed into daydreaming, staring out the window or focusing on irrelevant things around him. He fiddled with his pencils and other items in his desk, passed notes, made irrelevant comments and silly jokes, and disturbed his classmates in a variety of ways.

“When Avi is absent, it’s a different kind of day,” his fifth grade teacher told the principal. “The atmosphere is calmer and we get much more accomplished. We really have to get to the bottom of his problems.”

Things came to a head after a parent-teachers conference where Avi’s parents were floored by the teacher’s suggestion that they, his parents, might be exacerbating Avi’s problems, rather than helping him to get a handle on them.

Prize Binging

“Avi seems to be collecting more prizes in a month than most kids do in a year,” the teacher told Avi’s parents. “He brings these things to school and frankly, I wonder whether they might be contributing to his difficulties in class.”

“Do you mean he plays with them in the middle of class?”

“No, I don’t allow them to be anywhere near him during class. My point is that because he has already been given so many dazzling prizes, it’s almost impossible for me, as his teacher, to come up with any kind of incentive that would work with him. Can I ask what he is doing to earn all these fabulous rewards?”

“They’re basically for good behavior at home,” Avi’s mother said. “He gets so rambunctious,” his father explained, “you know, teasing his siblings, stirring thing up—things were always in an uproar.”

“But aren’t you overdoing it? These big, expensive prizes may buy you some peace at home, but it seems it’s backfiring at school. Here he has a great deal of trouble with self-control, with waiting his turn, not calling out, not interrupting. He needs an extra high level of stimulation to keep him going at the most ordinary task.”

Avi’s mother went on the defensive. “You must think we’re just buying him off, taking the easy way out. That’s not fair! We work with him constantly. But he’s always needed more than—more than we could give him.”

Her husband suddenly turned to her.

“Miriam, let’s face it. He’s got us wrapped around his finger. He’s getting lavishly rewarded for behavior that’s not even especially good, just good enough. And each time, the prize has to be bigger and better while he delivers less and less.”

He turned back to the teacher wearily, holding up his hand to forestall his wife’s objections.

“I don’t know about my wife but I’m at my wit’s end. What do you suggest we do?

The Insatiable Child

If the above scenario has a familiar ring to it, it’s because all of us have, at one time or another, met the child who incessantly craves excitement, new possessions and intense experiences of all kinds—the child who seems insatiable. Such a child, in order to stay focused and content, must constantly experience a rich payback in intellectual or emotional gratification.

Help Wanted

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Dear Dr. Respler:

I love my wife, who is by nature a difficult person. As a result, our seven children gravitate more to me than to her. She thinks she is always right, her favorite line being “I told you so.”  This is annoying and drives all of us crazy.

I have begged her to go with me for marital counseling (divorce is not a possibility), as I think we can have a great marriage – instead of an average or poor one. She tells me that since I think we need help, I should go myself. At this point I am thinking of going for therapy alone, but I’m wondering if this would really help. Don’t both people have to go for marital therapy for it to be effective? Should I go alone?

Baruch Hashem, money is not a problem and I can afford private therapy. Please advise me as to what to do. I really respect your opinion and can see from your column that you really care about people.

Thank You,

A Frustrated Husband

 

Dear Frustrated Husband:

I empathize with your problem, which is unfortunately experienced by others. I always say that those who really need therapy often do not go for it. It is those who have to live with the difficult spouse, parent, in-law, sibling, or child who sometimes end up bearing the brunt of the problem, and they are the ones who seek therapy in order to effectively deal with their dilemma.

That being said, I have on many occasions had only one spouse come to me for marital counseling – usually the healthy one – and helped that spouse learn how to deal with his or her mate. You can change your marital situation by changing your countermoves. Here are some examples that may help you:

Example 1: A husband with a very angry, difficult wife who is always right comes in for therapy alone, as she refuses to join him. He learns effective ways to deal with his wife. Whereas prior to therapy he would respond to her anger by screaming back, he now knows to control his anger and respond calmly and politely to her. At first she would try to instigate more tension by becoming even angrier. The key in this situation would be for him to continue answering calmly but not become passive-aggressive or aggressive. For example, if she would start screaming at him for not doing a certain task that he said he would do, previously he would either make fun of her (passive-aggressive) or scream back at her for being an annoyance.

In this new approach he would simply say, “I am sorry that I forgot.” He would then promptly do the task. The first time he tried it, she was so shocked by his new behavior that she continued to scream, “You should have done it earlier.” He continued to say calmly that she was right and that in the future he would be more careful in remembering to do what she requested. As he continued to answer in a calm tone without sarcasm or mean humor, his wife began to feel uncomfortable with her rage. She stopped screaming and began to cry. He then worked with her to cry and deal with her pain.

In essence he became her therapist.  She had come from a home where her father was angry and abusive and her mother was a doormat. She was so afraid that she would become like her mother, that she identified with the aggressor (her father) and chose subconsciously to behave like him. Conversely, the husband came from a home where his parents had an excellent marriage and was able to cope with his wife’s issues. Eventually, after behaving in a positive and loving manner, the wife admitted to her husband that she indeed had a problem with her anger due to her childhood. Only after a few months of the husband acting in such a positive way did the wife acquiesce to attend therapy and work on her anger. It was as if he was the ambassador who got her to go for the therapy she desperately needed. She learned anger management techniques in our therapy sessions and their marriage became a loving, respectful, and excellent one.

What impressed me was the husband’s willingness to swallow his pride and work to improve their tumultuous marriage – which ultimately led her to believe that she needed to change. This was a real therapy success story.

Example 2: The wife comes in for therapy alone, as her husband was adamantly opposed to the idea of joining her. He was extremely insensitive to her feelings when they were in public. In private their marriage was good, but his public behavior upset his wife very much. He would often say painful and embarrassing things to her in front of others. She would usually not respond, act very coldly, and would either not speak to him for the rest of the evening or cry incessantly. In reality the husband was not an evil person; he was just very impulsive and insecure, often making jokes publicly at his wife’s expense.

The Vishnitzer Rebbe, ZT”L

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

The Jewish Press joins Klal Yisrael in mourning the death of Rav Moshe Yehoshua Hager, the Vishnitzer Rebbe in Bnei Brak since 1972 and a major Torah personality for more than sixty years.

A prodigious and highly respected Talmudist from his early youth, he became rosh yeshiva of the Vishnitz yeshiva upon his arrival in Israel in 1944 and later served as the community’s rabbinic court head. He was instrumental in building the Vishnitz community and its network of institutions in Bnei Brak, and under his guidance Vishnitz schools came to serve more than 10,000 children and Vishnitz chassidus grew in both numbers and influence. He urged his adherents to engage in serious Torah study and to uncompromisingly observe the Torah laws of modesty and ethical behavior. Until his health failed, his legendary gatherings drew thousands from both within and without the movement.

May his memory be a blessing.

Why It’s Important To Know Hebrew

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Hebrew — knowledge of the language of the Jewish people is essential.

Jews pray in Hebrew, and therefore should know the words they say.

The Torah is in Hebrew, and it’s better to understand it in its original form.

Hebrew is the international language of the Jewish people and in all the places I’ve been around the world, Hebrew works better than English.

And…many of the blog posts I simply don’t have time to write, are based on sources in Hebrew. These stories would fascinate you, yet I simply do not have the time to translate them all for you.

For example – Maariv reports on how the JNF has capitulated to Leftist demands to stop planting trees in the Negev, despite the land being 100% State of Israel land and upheld by the courts. Source (in Hebrew)

The Jewish woman from Bat-Yam who started going out with “David”…and his strange behavior caused her to have him investigated by private investigators. They revealed that he was an Arab…married with 4 children. And her response? Don’t tell anyone, so she can continue her relationship with him…she honestly believes she can continue this way. Source (in Hebrew)

High School students expelled for having setting up a table for students to put on tefillin. The Secular high school in Haifa (no, not Modiin) said they were not expelled for the tefillin, per se, but for arrogant behavior. Source (in Hebrew)

Merrill Lynch analyst says Bezeq Telecom stock will rise 47% Source (in Hebrew) Bezeq?! Mashiach must be here…

MK Dr. Ahmad Tibi; A Jew that expects an [Israeli] Arab to sing the “Hatkiva” [Israe's national anthem] is either an idiot or crazy, or he is MK [David] Rotem [Yisrael Beiteinu party] or MK [Michael] Ben-Ari [Ichud Leumi] (Haaretz, 10 AM today)

So what can we expect from Israeli Arabs without being considered crazy?

Looking Asperger’s Syndrome in the Eye

Friday, February 24th, 2012

“Look me in the eye, young man!”

I cannot tell you how many times I heard that shrill, whining refrain. It started about the time I got to first grade. I heard it from parents, relatives, teachers, principals, and all manner of other people. I heard it so often I began to expect to hear it.

Sometimes it would be punctuated by a jab from a ruler or one of those rubber tipped pointers teachers used in those days. The teachers would say, “Look at me when I’m speaking to you!” I would squirm and continue looking at the floor, which would just make them madder. I would glance up at their hostile faces and feel squirmier and more uncomfortable and unable to form words, and I would quickly look away.

My father would say, “Look at me! What are you hiding?”

“Nothing…”

Everyone thought they understood my behavior. They thought it was simple: I was just no good.

“Nobody trusts a man who won’t look them in the eye.” “You look like a criminal.” “You’re up to something. I know it!”

Most of the time, I wasn’t. I didn’t know why they were getting agitated. I didn’t even understand what looking someone in the eye meant. And yet I felt ashamed, because people expected me to do it, and I knew it, and yet I didn’t. So what was wrong with me?

The above excerpt comes from the prologue of John Elder Robinson’s memoir, Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s. Robinson describes the painful experience of growing up in a time before Asperger’s Syndrome was widely recognized. Instead of his parents and teachers understanding his limitations (and strengths), they regarded him as a “problem child,” one who would never make it in the real world.

Fortunately, a lot has changed since Robinson was a child. Scientists, educators and psychologists have done extensive research on Asperger’s Syndrome, often identified as a mild form of autism. Perhaps the best way to help those with Asperger’s to succeed is to gain a better understanding of the workings of the syndrome.

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

Asperger’s Syndrome was first described in the 1940s by an Austrian pediatrician, Hans Asperger, who noticed that he had many patients who were deficient in social and communicative skills even though they had normal language development and cognitive abilities. While many children on the autistic scale have trouble functioning socially, they also tend to develop language skills later; therefore, Dr. Asperger felt these children stood in a class of their own.

Professionals still debate as to whether Asperger’s Syndrome is “high-functioning autism” or whether it is its own disorder completely. Regardless, in 1994, Asperger’s Syndrome was added to The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as a separate disorder from autism. The main distinction between autism and Asperger’s Syndrome is that with Asperger’s there is no speech delay. In fact, children with Asperger’s generally have good language skills – even though their speech patterns might be unusual or their inflections inconsistent.

Children with autism often seem aloof and uninterested in others. This is not the case with children with Asperger’s – they usually want to fit in and interact with others – but simply do not know how to. They may be socially awkward, not pick up on social cues, or show a lack of empathy. In terms of non-verbal communication, children with Asperger’s will seem uninterested in a conversation, not understand the use of gestures, and like John Elder Robinson, avoid eye contact.

In their free time, children with Asperger’s often have particular interests that can border on obsession. They often like to collect categories of objects: baseball cards, rocks, cars, or clips. While many children with Asperger’s have excellent memory skills for statistics and rote memorization, they have trouble with abstract concepts.

Because of the many strengths children with Asperger’s Syndrome manifest, parents can become frustrated easily. We know that the child is cognitively capable, so we ask ourselves, “Why can’t they just act like everyone else?” While this frustration is a common phenomenon, it is important to understand that children with Asperger’s would love to function the way their siblings and family do. They simply cannot figure out how to act “normally.” It’s our job as parents and educators to give them the tools to better adapt to society.

As autistic adult writer Jim Sinclair wrote to parents of children with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome:

You didn’t lose a child to autism. You lost a child because the child you waited for never came into existence. That isn’t the fault of the autistic child who does exist, and it shouldn’t be our burden. We need and deserve families who can see us and value us for ourselves, not families whose vision of us is obscured by the ghosts of children who never lived. Grieve if you must, for your own lost dreams. But don’t mourn for us. We are alive. We are real. And we’re here waiting for you.

Surviving Bullying, Silencing And Torment For Being Gay In The Frum Community

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

It’s been more than six months since The Jewish Press published an op-ed titled “Orthodox Homosexuals and the Pursuit of Self Indulgence.” In the article, the writer, while not mentioning my name, calls me shameless and self-indulgent and suggests that I learn to suffer in silence. He was referring to an anti-suicide video I made for the “It Gets Better” project. In the YouTube video I talk about the endless bullying in my childhood, the trauma of reparative therapy and my suicide attempt as a result of a frum community that seemed to not want me to exist simply because I was gay.

My message was that, with time, with understanding friends and with self-acceptance, it gets better. I hoped to tell other kids who may be on the brink of suicide to stick it out, because life gets better; even for gay Jews growing up in the Orthodox community. This video never talks about private behavior, never mentions any assur activity, and certainly does not divulge anything about what I do behind closed doors. However, simply because I talk about how I was bullied for being gay, the author tried to make me feel horrible for simply sending a message of hope. He succeeded in embarrassing me and making me feel unwanted by this community.

I wish I could say that this is the exception. But the truth is that despite the fact that I would never talk publicly about private personal behavior or engaging in sin, the frum world seems to see me as part of a “gay agenda” simply because I won’t stay quiet.

My name is Chaim Levin. I grew up in a heimishe family in Crown Heights. I love my mother, my father and my family. I had always felt different and was the subject of relentless bullying by other boys for “seeming” gay. When I was 17 I confided to a friend that I was attracted to men and not sexually attracted to women at all. When it came out, I was thrown out of yeshiva. For the longest time I felt so alone because I truly believed that I was the only person battling this secret war. My older siblings were getting married and having kids, and all I ever wanted was to be a part of the beautiful world my parents had raised me in. My dream was to marry a woman and live the life my family hoped and dreamed for me. I would never have chosen to be gay; I could not imagine anyone growing up in the Orthodox world who would choose to be someone who doesn’t fit into the values and norms of everyone around them.

So do I think that I was “born gay”? I don’t know and I am not sure how important that is. What is important is that it certainly is not something that I chose or had anything to do with. And I felt immense pressure to somehow change who I was.

After much time and research I found a well-known organization that “specialized” in reparative therapy. This organization had endorsements from a wide range of rabbanim and I was sure that it was the answer to all my problems. The organization’s executive director told me that he believes everyone can change if they simply put in the hard work. I would have done anything to change, and this message was just the hope I was looking for. I spent two years attending every group meeting, weekend, and individual life coaching sessions they offered. My parents and I paid thousands of dollars. Every day, every session, I was working and waiting to feel a shift in my desires or experience authentic change. That moment never came. I didn’t change, I never developed any sexual desire for women, and never stopped being attracted to men. Instead, I only felt more and more helpless because I wasn’t changing. The organization and its staff taught us that change only comes to those who truly want it and are willing to put in the work. So if I wasn’t changing, I was seen as someone who either really didn’t sincerely want it, or would not put in the necessary work. In other words, there was no one to blame but myself.

The worst part of my experience in reparative therapy came at the end. In a locked office, alone with my unlicensed “life coach,” I was told to undress, stand in front of the counselor and do things too graphic to describe in this article. I was extremely uncomfortable, but he said that I must do this for the sake of changing and that if I didn’t remove my clothing I wouldn’t be doing the work it takes to achieve change. I would do anything to change, and so I did what he asked me to do. It was probably the most traumatizing experience of my life.

The Real Coercion In Israel

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

No coercion is good – religious or secular. Today, Israel suffers more from secular coercion than from religious coercion. Unlike the situation in the past, religious soldiers today are forced into combat with women soldiers. Unlike the situation in the past, Israel’s citizens today are coerced into witnessing gay pride parades and other decadent behavior in their public space. Unlike the situation in the past, the settlers today are forcibly expelled from their homes against the will of the majority of the nation. Unlike the situation in the past, non-Jewish immigration from Russia is being forced down our throats, with Sudanese immigration thrown in for good measure. The entire Israeli reality has become a platform for the multifaceted tyranny of the secular minority (approximately 19 percent of the public) over the traditional/religious/ultra-Orthodox majority.

Just like the unhappy events in Ramat Gilad, the story of Tanya from Ashdod (who was harassed on an ultra-Orthodox bus) was a provocation. It began with coercion, continued with the igniting of an intentional spark, led to stupid behavior by extremists, and was followed by a mad, false and bigoted media campaign. Who knows where it will end? Israel’s bus company, Egged, did not want to lose its ultra-Orthodox passengers and offered them their own bus lines in exchange for their agreement not to open their own bus company. That’s the whole story. Tanya could have taken the two general bus lines from Ashdod to Tel Aviv. But she insisted on traveling on the ultra-Orthodox bus.

Do these provocations justify throwing a rock at an IDF officer? Certainly not. Do they justify an imbecilic ultra-Orthodox man spitting on a small girl whose level of modesty does not conform to his standards? Of course not. Most of the ultra-Orthodox have renounced his behavior.

But the problem here is coercion of all types. And the most significant coercion today in Israeli society is the continuing offensive against anything that smacks of Jewish identity – be it the settling of the Land of Israel, family values (today it is financially worthwhile to divorce and declare oneself a single parent, and many people do this), or a smear campaign accusing the ultra-Orthodox of discrimination against women.

We would all be well advised to filter out the media’s wailing. The journalists, most of whom represent the junk-culture that takes the prize for humiliating women, have nothing to teach us about respect for women.

Problems in society must be dealt with in a factual manner. Those who discriminate against women or harass them must be punished according to the law. But none of that has anything to do with the murky wave of incitement that has lately been washing over our heads.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/moshe-feiglin/the-real-coercion-in-israel/2012/01/19/

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